Devs to Apple: Make Safari hear iBeacons!

Richard Bagdonas
4 min readJul 1, 2016

Unless you spend an awesome amount of money advertising it, consumers probably won’t download your app. If they do download it they probably won’t open it more than once. Unless of course it is part of a habitual routine.

Companies like Facebook have their app on the coveted front-page of your home screen. Today my home screen looks like this:

These are my “habitual apps” — those apps I open daily and use as part of a routine. If you look at the top row you will see my most commonly-used ones and if you look at the very bottom row you will find the ones that are used by most folks as default apps — until such time as Microsoft sunsets Sunrise.

The one on the bottom-right is Apple’s Safari browser. This is the mainstay for people who don’t want to use an app to receive content from your company.

Consumers are comfortable using the Safari browser and many companies have gone away from building native apps in lieu of browser-based interactions for this very reason. The consumer doesn’t have to download an app and the company doesn’t have to write one in objective-c and get it past the sometimes-difficult review team at Apple. Most important is browser-based apps can be changed at any time without having to go back through a review process.

Apple and the iBeacon

Apple took the Bluetooth Smart standard and created its iBeacon standard. If you haven’t read my other posts, I am an iBeacon aficionado. iBeacons are cool little pieces of hardware transmitting a radio signal your iPhone can hear. Some mobile devices can be turned into iBeacons by way of an app.

The problem with iBeacons is it requires the company wanting to leverage them to develop a native mobile app turning on the Bluetooth Smart (legacy term was BTLE) antenna and register my iBeacon unique identifiers with the iOS operating system.

iOS will then listen for my iBeacons and signal the app on your iPhone when you walk near one. This is a lot of work to go through and a pain in the butt for most companies who just want to engage their consumers — not become Bluetooth experts.

My company Mahana deployed the first iBeacon platform for hospitality which was acquired back in 2015. Since then there hasn’t been much movement on reducing the overall lift requested of developers wanting to leverage iBeacons.

Calling All Apple Engineers

Here is my idea for Apple: change Safari into an iBeacon platform.

By change I mean allow mobile websites to register themselves with Safari the first time a consumer goes to the website. A good example would be the following code added to my webpage’s <head> segment.

<meta name=”safari:ibeacon_uuid” content=”AADAF9CF-1401–11E4–8EF9–067CDD2EF1A4"/>

<meta name=”safari:ibeacon_site” content=”"/>

Safari should look for these meta tags and register with iOS to listen for all iBeacons with my unique identifier AADAF9CF-1401–11E4–8EF9–067CDD2EF1A4.

Safari should store a small hash table containing the various UUID’s and associated websites it needs. Then Safari could simply register with iOS the same way my app does today to let it know Safari wants to be told when an iBeacon is heard.

When it hears one of my iBeacons I registered with “safari:ibeacon_uuid” Safari should open my webpage listed in the “safari:ibeacon_site” and let the consumer know there is content for them.

If you really wanted to get sexy with Safari and take it to an entirely new level you could allow me to register a webhook endpoint so the mobile device could call my website and request content to send to the consumer’s phone. Such as the following.

<meta name=”safari:ibeacon_webhook” content=”{idfa}"/>

The {idfa} would be the consumer’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). Apple, knows what this is and can easily send it to my system to determine if I have seen this consumer before.

Take the JSON I give you as part of my response and use it to put a badge on the mobile device’s lock screen.

Do you know an Apple engineer?

If you know someone at Apple, please have them contact me. I wrote this out pretty quickly and I have a much more intense set of features describing all aspects of how browser-based iBeacon experiences can and should happen in Safari.

There are many more things to talk about when implementing iBeacons and features in your apps using them for simplification of user experience.

Please connect with me on LinkedIn if you are interested in talking about iBeacons.

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Richard Bagdonas

Disruptor & Austin entrepreneur with 4 acquisitions and 2 exits to the public markets. Proud father, husband, and philanthropist. @richardbagdonas